Thursday, May 8, 2014

39 UHeart Organizing: DIY Attic Storage Labels

Last year we made amazing progress on a few of our storage areas and I was jazzed about how things were going.  And then it started getting cold, Christmas came and went and I fell off of the storage room train.  {Cold means no work on the garage which piggybacks off of a few of our storage room projects} Sigh...  Tell me I am not the only one this happens to?

Good thing my good friend and contributor, Ashley of 7th House on the Left, is here today to kick me back into organizing gear.  She is sharing her updated attic storage process, and it really is smartly simple!  To say iheart it is an understatement. 




I’m not sure if it’s the weather changing or what, but I’m on a massively huge Spring cleaning kick right now.  Not only am I on a mission to get every single square inch of this house spick and span (or “back to new” as my grandma calls it), I’m also on the verge of purging the things we don’t need/want anymore and scaling things down to the necessities.  Clothes, books, decorative accessories, office supplies, cleaning supplies… everything is being reassessed and then either organized or thrown away/donated.

On the long list of things to go through are the miscellaneous items we’re storing in our attic.  We have to use a pull-down ladder to get into our attic, so since it isn’t easily accessible, I often forget it’s even there.  Aside from the rare occasion when we decide to store something up there to get it out of the way (like seasonal décor or things we’re on the fence about giving to Goodwill), the attic is mostly unused.  Since we’re not up there much, as time has passed, the space has become slightly neglected and not as organized and convenient as it could be.


For starters, we went through everything and purged the things we’ve collected over the past few years.  Greg and I both went through our keepsake boxes from college (our baby/childhood keepsakes are still at our parents’ houses) and got rid of things we didn’t remember (because what’s the point of holding onto things that have no meaning anymore, right?).  We also went through our seasonal decorations and donated what didn’t jive with our decorating style anymore to the Goodwill.  The photo above isn’t our actual attic, but that’s the storage system we hope to implement once everything is sorted and organized.  Images from here.


When we first moved into our house a few years ago and began to store things in our attic, I labeled each container with my handy dandy label maker.  As my friends will tell you, I’m kind of obsessed with this thing.  They’re surprised Bentley (our kid dog) doesn’t have a label on his collar.  Over the past few years, I’ve realized that even though having a label on each container is helpful, when it comes down to it, it isn’t really a convenient system.  I mean, it’s labeled, yeah.  But when a label says, “Christmas Decorations” in a sea of eight other boxes that are labeled “Christmas Decorations”, you really have no idea what’s inside without opening it up and pulling everything out.  It’s annoying - which is why a new system had to be put in place.


I rolled a few ideas around my head and finally came up with an idea using an old favorite of mine: these single-sided, self-seal laminating sheets.  These things are amazing.  I originally fell in love with them when I was a teenager.  I would cut out photos from magazines, make collages on the front of spiral notebooks, then wrap the cover in one of these sheets.  Even though I sometimes still have the hankering to decorate a notebook now and then, over the years I’ve found other handy uses for these sheets - especially when it comes to organizing.  You can find them pretty much anywhere office supplies are sold.  (In the past I’ve purchased them from Target, Walgreens, Walmart and Staples.)  Aside from the laminating sheets, for this labeling project, I also needed paper (card stock is best), scissors, wet erase markers and a printer.


I started off by designing a label that included the contents’ category (Fall Decorations, Christmas Decorations, Keepsakes, etc), a bunch of blank lines to fill in the specific contents and a blank for a “last packaged” date.  To design the label, I used Adobe Illustrator, but you can also easily use Word or Pages.  I printed the labels on 8.5x11” card stock and then trimmed the edges to a size suitable for our storage containers (which ended up being around 8x5) using a paper cutter for extra-straight edges.


Once I printed out and trimmed down all of the sheets, I slowly placed each piece of card stock, printed side down, onto the middle of the sticky side of the lamenting sheet.  I made sure there was plenty of excess around the edges of the card stock to allow the label to stick to the storage container and cut off any unneeded excess using a pair of scissors.  Once that was done, I had a large label ready for a storage container.

To make sure the label adheres really well, make sure the storage container is very clean and dust-free (rubbing alcohol works great for this).  Once you have the label in place, run your fingernail around the edges of the card stock a few times to release in air bubbles and make sure it’s on there really well.


Once all of the labels were on their respective containers, it was time for the nitty-gritty details.  I went through each container and wrote down all of the contents on the label using a wet erase marker.  Using a wet erase marker instead of a regular dry erase marker means the labels won’t smudge while you’re moving the boxes around, but you can erase items with a little bit of water.

As I mentioned earlier, I also included a blank for a “packaged date”.  By making note of this, I will know how long ago I last went through that particular storage container and purged anything we didn’t want / need any longer.  That way, if I’m up in the attic to retrieve something else and notice a box that hasn’t been gone through in a few years, I can quickly scan the list of contents and see if there’s anything I now want to get rid of.  It’s a super easy system of being able to keep up with your stuff and regularly getting rid of the unneeded/unwanted items.  I guess you can kind of think of it as a reverse expiration date of sorts.


We’re currently in the midst of implementing this new system in the attic, but I already feel so much better about our attic storage, and it doesn’t make me cringe to think about attempting to find something up there when the time comes.

We’re still a week or two from being completely “done” with the whole Spring cleaning haul, but when that day comes, you’re going to be looking at one happy camper. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an embarrassing collection of dog clothes to go through.  Let the purging continue!You


"I'm Ashley from 7th House on the Left - a blog where my husband, Greg, and I talk about renovating, decorating and living in our first house here in Hanover, Virginia. I’ve been an interior design enthusiast and a long-time fan of all things organizing. Yep, I was the kid with the perfectly arranged Disney stuffed animals, alphabetized coloring books and the categorized and color-coded sticker book. When I'm not busy writing or doing projects around the house, I love classic TV shows (particularly I Love Lucy) and curling up with Greg, Bentley (our 9-pound Pomeranian), a blanket and a good black and white classic movie – I’m a complete sucker for Audrey Hepburn, Doris Day, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant films. I'm thrilled and honored to be a part of the IHeart Organizing team and excited to get to work!"

39 comments:

  1. This is such a good idea. The worst is crawling around the attic opening up every container to find what you need.

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  2. Genius! Totally stealing this idea. Thanks Ashley!

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  3. I've been on the same spring purge kick lately. Nothing like fresh, warm weather to make me want to get rid of half my stuff and clean every surface in the house!

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  4. This is amazing! We are about to move and will be collecting all of our stores boxes from both of our parents' basements. I want to start off super organized in our new house. I will definitely be doing this! Thanks for the great (and simple) idea!

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  5. This is the attic of my dreams!

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  6. This is great timing, as I've been about to tackle the attic! I love a good organizing project, and this looks like the perfect solution for our seasonal stuff/childhood memorabilia. Also, you have beautiful penmanship. :)

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  7. This is a great idea. I would like to see how the labels hold up after the hot and cold temperature changes in the attic. My labels fall off after a couple of seasons from the changes in temperature. I live in the North East, so it may be different for us.

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    1. we have super hot summers in TX so I have to super glue a clear plastic pocket for my label/card to go into

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  8. This idea is great! I'm definitely going to utilize this for so many things!

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  9. What a great idea! Just found my next project!

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  10. I need to come up with a great storage plan for our basement. Only issue is that it is not a finished basement and water gets in during the winter and when it rains. BOO!

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    1. Elevate plastic shelving on bricks or cinder blocks, store everything in plastic containers - I'd put some of those silica bead packets in the containers to absorb moisture...

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  11. This is super cute! However I actually came up with a more flexible solution for storage boxes. I just number each one, and then type the contents into a spreadsheet (we use Google Docs so it's shareable and always accessible). I like it because as I acquire more things or give things away I can rearrange the contents of the boxes without doing the labels. You can even make cute numbered labels.

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  12. I just LOVE this!! Just found my next project. Any chance there is a link to how those wooden slats/shelves were hung? What a fantastic attic!

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  13. Just a little info - Did you know that you can erase Sharpie from a laminated surface with a pink eraser?! I use this trick often when setting up my classroom nametags - it takes a little elbow grease, but if anyone is worried about water (even condensation) possibly making the wet erase marker run, the Sharpie trick might be a good option.

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    1. Even Easier: just write over permanent marker with dry erase and then wipe them both away.

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  14. This is great. I love that the label is BIG. Hard to see things up in the attic. The fact that you can reuse them even if you change the contents—thanks to the wet erase marker—is also brilliant.

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  15. Thanks a lot and greetings from Germany :)

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  16. We don't have an attic, so we have to store items like these in the garage rafters where we have laid plywood down over the rafters. This is such a great idea; maybe I can still adapt it to another storage project or even the storage area on the garage rafters.

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  17. I'm curious about your computer printer shown in the photographs..Looks like a super dooper..what brand and model is it? Ink Jet or Laser?

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    1. Hi Pippi!

      I think that Ashley is a Mac girl, and her printer appears to be an HP all-in-one printer - typically those are inkjet.

      xoxo!

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  18. I'm very interested in how she built her attic storage! I couldn't find the link on her site, has anyone seen how to build attic shelves over the insulation like that?

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    1. Hi Jennifer,

      As Ashley mentioned in the post, the photo is not of her actual attic, it is a system she is hoping to utilize. You can find the source for the image here:http://atticmaxx.com/about-atticmaxx/

      xoxo,
      Jen

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  19. How did you make the shelves in the attic? The wood and black anchors?

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  20. I got a valuable lesson when moving out of a house while still looking for a new home. Things had to be stored. With this system you label your containers with a number. Then you number pages in a notebook. You keep an inventory in your notebook of what is in each storage container. I use a pencil to keep my inventory. This way I can erase and move the things from box to box when purging or picking up new holiday things on clearance after the holidays. I use boxes the same size or containers that will stack together easily. My Boxes and containers are organized by number. 1-4 in the first stack and 28 through 32 in the last one. Then when I want something I just have someone go get me box #6 for example because I have looked at my inventory and see that my Christmas table cloth is in that box. Oh and grab the Christmas cards out of box #7. I try to keep the boxes in order so the person getting the boxes and putting them away have an easier job too.

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  21. I love this idea for storage, I have always marked my totes as you showed but the shelving is genius. Than

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  22. This is a great idea!! thanks for sharing!

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  23. Instead of using labels, we use sheet protectors. That way you can change the contents of the box without ripping up/off the label.

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    1. Great idea! What sheet protectors do you use? Something that is a pouch you can slide the paper in?

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  24. I noticed they give castoffs to Goodwill, That is 1 man getting rich off others donations why not give to the Salvation Army instead they give back to the community by helping the homeless etc. why help 1 person become a multi-millionaire?

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  25. Construction experience from me... Not a good idea! Trusses are engineered for roof load and structure, not to be made into storage situations that could stress the roof load calculations and cause failure and also cracks in your ceiling.

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    1. Wouldn't this also apply to the area if you laid sheets of plywood down and used for storage?

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    2. Big mistake to throw plywood over rafters without knowing if they can stand the extra weight of the material and of whatever you are planning on storing.

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  26. Thank you for sharing this GREAT idea I have an older house that has a small door with a slanted room which is finished except for the wall & the rafters to the roof it is big enough for this GREAT idea will be a project for spring or fall to hot for summer. So will Spring clean & then get ready for winter to put stuff in there. THANK YOU!!!!!! You just solved my problem. Have a great day & God Bless you...... From New Hampshire, U.S.A.

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  27. Love the shelves!!!

    We organize our bins by the room being decorated for Christmas [kitchen, dining, living, outdoor, etc]. We only have 3 bins for Halloween/Thanksgiving, one for St.Patty's, one for Easter - so just used colored bins [green for St. Patty, Orange for H/T and purple for Easter].

    I love fonts. So I went and found a variety of holiday fonts to use for labeling my Christmas bins. Thus 'Outdoor Lights' is typed in a font that is made of Christmas Lights. 'Kitchen Decorations' are in a Gingerbread Man font, 'Tree Decorations' are in a Christmas Tree font and so on. This is helpful because at my mother's house, dad gets everything from the attic. If we're only working on the kitchen that day, I'll tell him to get the 'Gingerbread' boxes down.

    Another option is to take pictures of the items in the box and then place the pictures on the outside with the laminating sheets.

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  28. I know the article is about organizing and labeling but the picture makes me want to build this in my attic. You have to be careful with doing this. I have a builder friend that said my single story house wouldn't be able to support storing stuff in my attic crawl space. It might collapse through the ceiling below or in this case pull down on the roof. It wasn't constructed to handle the extra weight.

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  29. You can use a permanent marker on laminated sheets. I used to work in a doctors office and we would have patients sign their yearly paperwork on the laminated sheets and then scan wipe away with rubbing alcohol and ready for the next person.

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  30. It's been a few years, now, since you posted this tip. I'm not sure if you live in a part of the country where you experience broad temperature swings but I'm wondering if the adhesive has reliably held through both hot and cold temps in your attic.

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